Ah yes, it’s that time of year again. The joy of seasonal affective disorder is upon us, with credit card debt wracking up, and herds of Facebook friends whoring around their “newly engaged” photos. The reality of the holidays can cause crippling depression, but thankfully, we have lighthearted cheeky holiday rom-coms to console us. I have my own particular favorites including Elf, A Christmas Story, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, but none of them compare to the masterpiece that is Love, Actually.
Let me begin by saying, I am no cinematic genius. I don’t actually critique films. I’m sure someone out there with an NYU degree in film production will disagree with me whole heartedly (can’t wait for those comments!) But I have a degree in theatre, and I used to watch this film every year with my peers in the dorms. As an artist, your goal is to move audiences. Whether they laugh, cry, or think, you transport them to another world when they need a vacation the most. Perfect for the holiday blues.
Recently, on Red Eye, we discussed a Buzzfeed article that listed the outlandish moments in Love, Actually that give us false hope, as they never “Actually” happen. (read article here, 14 Times “Love, Actually” Lied To Us About Love). My argument is, as an audience we are blissfully aware of the fact that no one will race through an airport to kiss us, or come to the front door confessing their love for us on poster boards. We also know Santa isn’t real and elves need more that sugar to survive. But we watch these films when we need them most. Also, there are more truthful moments in Love, Actually than ridiculous ones, and they just about make me shed a tear every time.
“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere.“
This is an excerpt from Hugh Grant’s opening monologue. Complete with a montage of happy teary-eyed travelers being embraced by their loved ones. I experienced this very moment about five years ago at the arrivals gate at Newark airport. My boyfriend (at the time) was arriving home from three weeks in Italy. I actually surprised myself when hot tears started rolling down my face. My joy was embarrassingly apparent. At that very moment, I thought of this movie and how I would have dominated the opening. Jokes aside, we’re constantly surrounded by these loving precious moments. We are either blind to them, or choose to focus on the negative. Sometimes, I need a reminder of what’s inherently valuable, and the first sixty seconds of this movie do just that.
Being the acting aficionado that I am, this film is an excellent study of human behavior with stellar performances by Andrew Lincoln, Laura Linney, and Emma Thompson. Andrew Lincoln’s character is in love with his best friend’s new wife. He’s been able to keep his feelings a secret, until she sees his video footage from the wedding, which are all shots of her. He promptly takes off, “It’s a… self-preservation thing, you see.” We then watch him walking off his embarrassment and frustration. He begins by pacing, almost turning around, then giving a small outburst that sets him walking around town. You can see the wheels turning in his head as he skims his fingers along a railing, reaching overhead to tap an exit sign, looking for anything to touch, to hold onto, as his secret slips from his grasp. Love it.
Laura Linney plays a homely introverted woman who has a serious crush on her sexy, (looks latino but I’m confused by his inconsistent accent) co-worker. For all my ladies reading this, we know how it feels to be head over heels for someone who doesn’t seem to know we exist. Then, the moment when he asks you to dance, or better yet, escorts you home, you are floating on a cloud while wanting to throw up. Best scene: They arrive at her front door, and he is going to join her inside. She asks him for ten seconds, then steps out of his view so she can do a silent scream/dance in utter joy. Perfection.
Emma Thompson’s character requires a bit more range especially in the moment when she discovers her husband is being unfaithful. She knows he’s purchased a necklace and assumes it’s for her. When she opens up a Joni Mitchell CD instead, she realizes the jewelry was given to someone else. The always composed super-mom persona is stripped away, leaving her completely vulnerable. Heartbreaking scene: trying to compose herself in the bedroom before the kids’ Christmas pageant. While listening to Joni Mitchell, she fights so hard not to cry. (Actors, keep this is mind. It is far more interesting to watch someone hold in tears than let it all out.) As an audience, we too feel that pit in our throat. Best line: “Tell me, if you were in my position, what would you do? Would you wait around to find out if it’s just a necklace, or if it’s sex and a necklace, or if, worst of all, it’s a necklace and love? Would you stay, knowing life would always be a little bit worse? Or would you cut and run?” For all you masochists out there, this scene is for you.
I could go on and on with more precious moments, but I’ll save you from further self-indulgence. Just go watch this movie ASAP and share your favorite scenes with me! The interweaving of characters, correct balance of cheese and melodrama, with writing that made for brilliant quotes, makes Love, Actually actually my favorite holiday film.